Christy Smith held a small lead over Mike Garcia in early returns Tuesday evening, garnering 51.7% of the vote to Garcia’s 48.3% in their rematch to stake a claim to the 25th Congressional District.
Those numbers represent a margin of less than 8,000 votes.
Smith is hoping to avenge an earlier loss to the Republican Garcia and take back the seat for the Democratic Party.
It was technically the fourth time in nine months the duo faced off at the ballot box. In March, Smith and Garcia finished one-two in a special election to fill out the term of Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned following the online release of salacious photos and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member.
On that same ballot, Smith and Garcia also topped essentially the same field of candidates in a separate primary race to fill Hill’s seat for the next two years.
In May, Smith and Garcia squared off in the runoff of the March special election to complete Hill’s original term, and Garcia emerged victorious and was sworn into Congress.
The winner in the current race will take over the seat for the next two years.
The 25th District stretches from the Antelope Valley into Ventura County. It was one of several Southland districts targeted by Republicans after sweeping losses the party suffered in 2018.
Smith was endorsed by many of the area’s biggest Democratic names and by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her campaign website touted a variety of priority issues, led by improving public education, ending “corruption in Washington,” boosting support for first responders and ensuring access to affordable health care.
Garcia is a former Navy pilot who said he was inspired to vie for the post because Hill “did not represent our moderate district. I have the choice to stand on the sidelines and see what happens but that is not in my DNA. This is an extension of my desire to serve, this time to fight for my district.”
In a closely watched race for the 45th Congressional District seat in Orange County, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter boasted a comfortable lead, with 57.5% of the vote and a margin of nearly 48,000 votes over Republican Greg Raths. Porter, an attorney and UC Irvine law professor, was challenged in the March primary by Raths and five other Republicans in a district that was long considered a safe conservative area but has seen a growing influx of Democrat voters.
The district covers an inland area between roughly Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda.
In the coastal 48th District, if early returns hold, incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda will win another term against Republican Michelle Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Rouda pulled in 53.8% of the vote to Steel’s 46.2%.
Rouda touted his achievements in Congress, insisting he can work across the aisle to reach consensus agreements. He said he wants to “continue our work to lower prescription drug costs, protect our coastline, and stand up to the insiders and special interests that run Washington.”
Steel said during her campaign that she was running to provide a “strong voice in Washington, D.C., who will honor promises made and stand up for us and our values.” She pointed to her work on the Board of Supervisors, saying she fought higher taxes while working to reduce traffic congestion and “ensuring our bays and coastlines are clean.”
Insiders had expected a close race.
Another Orange County congressional race being closely watched is Rep. Gil Cisneros’ battle with former Assemblywoman Young Kim in the 39th District, which Cisnero seemed poised to win based on early vote totals showing him with 53.6% and Kim lagging with 46.4%.
This was a rematch of 2018, when Cisneros defeated the former Rep. Ed Royce’s protege.
Two years ago, Kim was leading and even traveled to Washington, D.C., for orientation for newly elected congressional representatives, only to be overtaken by Cisneros in late-arriving ballots in a district that has residents in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties.
In the 49th congressional district, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin had 58.2% of the vote over Republican challenger Brian Maryott.